5 Unconventional Ways to Use File Folders for Special Education

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I’ve found using file folders for special education is such an engaging classroom staple for teaching our students the skills they need to become independent learners. But sometimes – they get stale. No matter how different each file folder activity is, it’s still a file folder activity. And sometimes – they don’t target the skills the students REALLY need to make progress. And sometimes – they’re not accessible for the unique needs of specific students. What then?

alphabet file folders for special education

When I created my latest set of file folders for special education (check them out here), I really thought about the wide range of learners that might access these tools. I created them to be specifically accessible and adaptable to students across the wide spectrum of needs in special education classrooms. I considered so many student profiles from my years of teaching. Along with that I tested interesting ways we can use file folders to keep students engaged, target a multitude of skills, and be accessible across the board. Want to hear what I came up with?

File Folders for Special Education with Sensory Bins

Do you have students that are bored at the sight of a file folder – no matter how brightly colored or novel it looks? I already know the answer is yes – we all do! Try taking the pieces and bury them in a sensory bin! Students can engage in a sensory experience, use problem solving skills, and work on continuing to attend to task as they find an activity piece in the sensory bin and add it to their file folder activity! Add other items to help with discrimination as well! Here is an image of how I keep it errorless for students in my classroom, but the ideas are endless!

using a sensory bin with sand for file folders for special education

Create a Scavenger Hunt

Students who require a lot of movement and input in their day can be hard to engage in academic activities – and I know this because I’ve been there! Try hanging the file folder pieces around the room for students to discover in a scavenger hunt! I like taping them to neon sticky notes and hanging them around the room as a visual cue for students to find with more ease. This is also a fun activity to do alongside peer buddies from a general education classroom. 

File Folder for special education with Scavenger hunt with the pieces around the classroom

File Folders for Special Education & Assistive Technology!

So many of our students really need their main focus across the day to be on communication. Every activity that doesn’t incorporate their AAC device feels like a missed opportunity, probably because it is! File folders are typically seen as quiet, solitary activities – and they can be! But don’t limit yourself or your students. Add in the AAC device to make this both a communication and academic activity in one. Students can request the next piece, use their device to tell the answer, they can describe the color or shape of the photo on the card, and so much more using their device. 

Practice Turn Taking

Social skills can be challenging to target when we are SO busy with all of the other pressing needs in our classrooms. Sometimes they don’t even get their own IEP goal – I get it! File folder activities like this one lend themselves to turn-taking very easily.

Facilitating a turn taking activity between two peers is a wonderful way for students to practice asking for a turn, tolerate sharing, waiting and work together to complete the file folder activity together. 

Use Eye Gaze with File Folders for Special Education

Do you have students who communicate, or are learning to, with eye gaze? Don’t get stuck in a rut thinking these activities can’t work for students with these needs – it can be done! Creating an eye gaze board where you can add two file folder pieces for students to choose using eye gaze is a great way for them to still participate! They make the choice, and a peer (or you!) can assist in placing it in the file folder. While it takes a little extra time, it can really extend the life of your file folder collection by making it accessible for students with a variety of needs.


What new file folder activity are you going to try this week?
If you’re looking for a set of real photo alphabet file folders that are perfect for making accessible across student needs, be sure to check these out!

Alphabet File Folders Bundle

Wanting to save these ideas for later!?!? Pin this photo for your reference!

file folder 5 ways to use blog

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